Can we design for an unstable future by embracing loss? What can we let go? This track will explore historical, contemporary, or visionary research relating to resilience through sacrifice, loss, and failure.
Track Chair: Catherine Bonier
Keywords: resilience, sacrifice, loss, failure, memory
As we imagine the future, we hope for stability and growth, but can we also design for loss? Foundation sacrifices are known in history and myth. Cain killed Abel and became the first city builder, just as Romulus killed his twin and founded Rome. The cornerstone of a building, now a spot to mark a donor and a date, was once a place of burial. Boundaries are set, a gift is given, and building begins. Sacrifice can be a ritual that binds members of a community together, and connects them to the circumscribed area that they define as their land. This is a fixed model of sacrifice.
But what if boundaries and foundations are mobile and uncertain? New Orleans is just one site of dynamic change, proof of the fact that blind faith in fixity results in involuntary and sudden sacrifice. Whether paid for in blood, money, or words, the idea of a single intervention or fixed starting point that will ensure long-term stability is increasingly challenged. Since cataclysmic loss most frequently visits the grounds, neighborhoods, and buildings that are already challenged, planned sacrifice cannot avoid engaging with issues of economy and equity.
If sacrifice has traditionally been used to fix a place and to make it stable in time, is there a way we can reimagine ground, building, and dwelling around adaptive and ongoing sacrifice? What amount of security, certainty, rigidity, and boundary can we give up? Is “sustainability” itself a problematic term? How does preservation operate in this environment? Does our understanding of time itself need to change? How do we define failure, and what can we learn from it? Can we design for an unstable future, allowing for contingency and change by embracing loss? What can we let go? This track calls for historical, contemporary, or visionary research relating to resilience through sacrifice, loss, and failure.
About the Track Chair:
Catherine is an assistant professor of architectural history and design at LSU, Baton Rouge and is completing a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania, “Waterworks: Instrument and Emblem of Health and Democratic Equilibrium.” She researches the shaping of cities and landscapes around water, in conjunction with the history of ideas about nature, health and democratic society. By looking at complex and nuanced proto-industrial designs for healthy cities – in which water and architecture, bodily and democratic health were visibly linked – she hopes to recapture important ideas to shape future plans for post-industrial urban waters.